Individual Work
Avenue S

Digital literature allows authors to express themselves beyond the bounds of paper. Jody Zellen’s interactive journal is one example of digital literature that could not be replicated in the same capacity on the page. March 2020 marked the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The virus left many without employment, their loved ones or many of the luxuries of daily life. With the world on lockdown, Zellen returned to a net-art journal series she had been working on since 1998, Ghostcity . The new entry, Avenue S , is an open-access interactive net-art journal that chronicles Zellen’s 2020 experience. The journal can be accessed both on the ghostcity domain as well as on, The New River Journal. . An online platform that is devoted to exclusively promoting digital writing and art. Avenue S is easily accessible on desktop and mobile. The journal can be experienced as a hyperlink net art piece or can also be accessed as an easy-to-navigate grid , where audiences can view the full project including dates (see screenshot below). At its core, Avenue S explores feelings of isolation, frustration, appreciation for art and nature as well as the contemplation of contemporary political topics.
The media format of the project is central to the experience. The mix of photography, graphic design, poetry and animation all culminates together to create a multi-modal representation of the feeling of isolation. This type of work could not translate as well onto the page, it requires movement, repetition, cycling, to all represent the feelings Zellen, and many others felt during the lockdowns. It relies on the internet and technology like many others had to turn to in order to continue on with their responsibilities, to move forward and adapt. Katherine Hayles explains in her article, Electronic Literature: what is it? that readers often come to digital work with preconceived ways of interpretation, “Readers come to digital work with expectations formed by print, including extensive and deep tacit knowledge of letterforms, print conventions, and print literary modes ” ( Hayles 2007). Avenue S is a great example of how electronic literature can challenge these perceptions and have the audience read and interact with literature in a multi-modal fashion. One particularly interesting page is one titled “ entering the void” or can be found in the grid as “ 4-7-2020 ‘spin 1’.”This interactive piece has the participant continually clicking the screen as a drawing of a man spiralling in the center grows, taking multiple clicks, 39 in total, representing time passing and repetition in a multi interpretive way, both physically, clicking, and then through the drawing creation.
The journal consists of over 300 different pages of art, poetry, animation, photography and drawings that allow the participant to embody Zellen’s feelings during the pandemic. Though experience is subjective, Zellen captures the essence of relatability through the use of metaphorical language and imagery. Repetition is at the core of these feelings of unease, repeated imagery, scrolling and muted colour schemes all work together in the piece to provide the reader with an immersive experience that mimics the feelings of boredom found in isolation. One visual metaphor that can be seen throughout the journal is colour inverting images to create a more sinister meaning. Whether it be inverting flowers from bright and colourful to dark and daunting or collaging inverted angry faces under a happy smile, Zellen captures the darkness that many faced during the pandemic when the cycle catches up to you, and you’re reminded of how alone you are. Zellen’s journal is not solely rooted in emotional turmoil but also explores some of the positives that the pandemic brought forward, a better appreciation of nature and technology. Zellen’s journal is filled with nature imagery and poetry exploring the simplicity of nature, “A humble hush. The silence of walking and listening to the sky, trees, flowers, wind and water. A humble hush.” Throughout the pages nature pushes through the darker more monotonous imagery, creating a sense of light, possibility and hope. Unintended or not the journal acts as a beautiful reminder of what technology and nature brought us in regards to healing during the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic.
This entry was composed as a part of Dani Spanos’s course, adventures in digital humanities, at Trent University in February 2022.

Author statement: 
“Avenue S” is a visual record of these disconcerting times as it includes imagery related to the pandemic and interpretations of this fraught national and global political moment. The project is a reflection on isolation, nature, walking, politics and protests. It is meant to be an active yet fragmented viewing experience… just like life today.